Arsenal

UEFA have already introduced major rule changes that could affect Arsenal next season

Arsenal are on course to be playing European football once again next season.

After failing to qualify this term – for the first time in more than two decades – as things stand, the Gunners have the option of playing in any of the three UEFA club competitions once the 2022/23 campaign gets underway.

The preferred choice, well at least for Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, would be the Champions League.

“I do [miss it] a lot, because as a football player I’ve experienced it and it’s one the best feelings you can have,” the Spaniard admitted last month. “To be surrounded by opponents that are the best in the world and challenge yourself and evaluate yourself against that type of opposition.

“Then as a club you play in a competition that brings the club that brings them into a different dimension, different stage, different impact and a competition that is very attached to the history of this football club.

“I think for the club this is where we want to play. We want to be every year playing amongst the best teams. That’s what we want to do.”

The good news for Arteta is that his side currently sit fourth in the Premier League table and barring the unlikeliest of scenarios, will be back in the Champions League next season if they can hold off the challenges from Manchester United, West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur.

But in the event things go slightly awry between now and the end of the season, another campaign in the Europa League could await the Gunners.

Whilst it’s not European football’s best club competition, it’s certainly a worthy consolation prize as the eventual winners will earn an automatic place in the following season’s Champions League group stage.

Although, much has changed since Arsenal were last in the competition which just so happens to be last season when their run was ended at the semi-final stage by Villarreal – managed by none other than former head coach Unai Emery.

Following the introduction of the Europa Conference League (UECL) – UEFA’s third club tournament – the Europa League underwent major changes for its 51st season.

footballlondon
Serge Gnabry helped FC Bayern Munich send a Champions League warning to Arsenal. (Image: M. Donato/FC Bayern via Getty Images)
Bayern Munich’s ominous warning with Mikel Arteta close to completing three-year Arsenal missionfootballlondon
The changes announced by UEFA and introduced at the start of the season are as follows:

‘The group stage has been reduced from 48 to 32 teams – eight groups of four. The eight group winners progress automatically to the round of 16.

‘There will be additional knockout round play-offs prior to the round of 16; these will be between the eight UEFA Europa League group runners-up and the eight third-ranked teams from the UEFA Champions League groups.’

These changes can give the Europa League something of a Champions League feel, but only for those who top their group as two extra games – previously the round of 32 stage – are avoided.

Arsenal topped their Europa League group for four straight years so can experience the benefits of the competition’s new alterations if they repeat the trick next season should they miss out on the actual Champions League.

After experiencing the rarity of a full campaign without European football, the Gunners are well placed to ensure it’s just a one-off but it remains to be seen which competition they could be involved in next season.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION